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Bulgarian capital Sofia sealed off to contain spread of coronavirus

SOFIA (Reuters) - The Bulgarian capital Sofia will be sealed off from Friday to contain the spread of the new coronavirus after the number of confirmed cases jumped in the past two days, the health minister said.

At a midnight briefing Health Minister Kiril Ananiev said travel to and from Sofia, home to some 2 million people, will be banned until further notice, except for cargo transport and people who have to travel to go to work, or for hospital treatment. Bulgarians have been practicing social distancing and wearing protective masks.

Bulgaria registered over 40 new cases both on Wednesday and Thursday bringing the total number to 800, including 38 deaths. More than half of the confirmed infections are in Sofia.

The Balkan country had already restricted non-essential inter-city travel in March, but measures were tightened after over 5,000 cars tried to leave Sofia on Thursday ahead of Orthodox Easter holidays.

Many have been signing false declarations for the reason they are traveling and would be fined, the interior minister said.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Grant McCool

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